Let’s set the scene. It’s 1992, or 1982, or whenever. It’s a long time ago. You’re young, that’s the point. Like, 17. You’re in a car that someone borrowed from their mom headed down a dirt road to a swimming hole on a river where you’re hoping to see Jennifer Barksdale in a bikini. The car is packed beyond manufacturer recommended capacity, nobody’s wearing seatbelts, and there’s a cooler of beer sitting in the floorboards. You’re disregarding safety standards left and right. In that cooler of beer is a six pack of Zima (for Jennifer Barksdale) and a twelve of Budweiser, or Coors Light, or MGD in the can. Remember that feeling? That summertime mix of irresponsibility and anticipation underscored by can after can of easy-drinking beer?
Sierra Nevada wants to put you back in that station wagon headed down that dirt road thinking about Jennifer Barksdale in a bikini with their latest release: a limited run of Summerfest lager in the can.
I salute Sierra Nevada for giving us a lager, a style of beer that is typically the territory of macrobreweries. The craft beer industry rose in the ‘90s in part because Americans were tired of drinking lagers. We wanted beers with a bit of a bite. The typical American Pale Ales that have become the staple of craft brewers across the country are the antithesis of the easy-drinking (sometimes tasteless) lager.
Here’s how Sierra Nevada describes its Summerfest: “crisp, golden, dry.” They’re practically tapping the Rockies with that verbiage.
So, why not just buy a Budweiser for half the price? Because Sierra Nevada isn’t just recreating the canned beer that was there when you lost your virginity in high school (sadly, not to Jennifer Barksdale, but to her slightly more homely friend Margaret Grossman. Hey Maggie!). This beer is more complex than the Silver Bullets of your youth. It has a slight malty sweetness and the faintest hint of spicy hops, giving Summerfest a balanced integrity you just don’t find from Bud or Miller. It is a lager, yes, it is easy drinking, yes, but it is not tasteless.
Does that mean hop-heads will fall all over themselves for this beer? Probably not. There’s still a strong anti-lager streak amongst craft beer snobs. I get it. It wasn’t too long ago when you couldn’t get anything but a lager in the South. But now that the variety of beer has reached record level at your local Stab ‘n’ Grab, I say it’s okay to reach for this mild beer again, and relive the glory days of high school. Stock a cooler with Summerfest and head to that swimming hole. Better add a few Zima too, just in case Jennifer Barksdale is there and also feeling nostalgic.
Look for Summerfest at your favorite beer store starting Memorial Day.
Follow Graham Averill’s adventures in drinking and Dad-hood at daddy-drinks.com